With Thought Bubble’s comic convention on its way this weekend, Aaron Fever (Ship Wrecked, Frozen Waste, Artos) is launching Swift, the latest interpretation of the superhero genre from an Irish writer. The creative team involved gathers a lot of experience and talent in one issue, with line art by George Kambadais, colours by Rebecca Nalty, letters by Hassan Ostmane-Elhaou, and Declan Shalvey as Editor. I was fortunate enough to get a digital copy sent to me by Fever for the sake of this review.
Swift is a classic coming of age story, about a wheelchair bound teenager waking up on the sixteenth birthday to discover he has a superpower, and needing to figure out his place in the world with this sudden change. (That’s all you get out of me on that; aside from a no-spoiler policy, I’m not here to summarise the book for you!)
Compared to other superhero books by small press creators, it makes a delightful change. We’re not given a world-saving hero in Swift, but a real, human boy who just wants to paint. We’re not given a star athlete turned Superman-knock-off, or a team of eclectic Irishness in spandez. Fever uses the genre to tell a story about how a boy finds his place in his family, and in the world.
Kambadais and Nalty perform excellently together, giving us a charming family tale with the spark of Marketing Buzz that the heroes of Swift seem to demand. There’s a lot of movement throughout the comic, with the feel of a montage rippling through the pages, loud splashes of colour making up for the silence of paper (or the whirr of my laptop fan.) With the additional of Ostmane-Elhaou’s letters, the comic guides us through one of the more difficult times in a person’s life (growing up; not all of us go through superhero training at the age of sixteen) with all the excitement of possibility, and the dread of change, blended in a way only comics can achieve.
I adored this book. There are no other words for it. Perhaps it’s the superhero fan in me, or the Young-Adult-obsessed reader that’s yet to give up on the classic coming-of-age narrative, but I didn’t want to stop reading the book once I’d started, and wanted to go back and read it again once I’d finished. It doesn’t bury itself in unnecessary complexity; Swift is an honest story, packed with wit and humour. If you’re fortunate enough to get to Thought Bubble this weekend, this is one for your shopping list.
The biggest weekend for Irish comics is here: Dublin Comic Con. Thanks to Declan Shalvey, the hashtag #ComicsAtDCC began on Twitter, making the job of easily identifying what’ll be available that little bit easier. I’ve gathered a bunch of titles here from what I know about and what I could pick up info about online.
All Ages Comics
Going by my own experiences attending Dublin Comic Con in the past, the All-Ages titles are few and far between. I’ve collected the few that I know about here, to make things easier for readers with kids to find something age-appropriate for them.
The remainder of the Irish small press, as far as I know, is not quite as suitable for children as the above comics. While some titles may be – it’s a judgement call by parents – there are some that might traumatise kids.
Sometimes, writers and artists work on things that aren’t comics. Launching at DCC, or just released this year, are:
As well as all of that, attendees will also be treated to the presence of a few of Ireland’s greatest comic creators, including Will Sliney, Declan Shalvey, Stephen Mooney, John Cullen, Triona Farrell, and Robert Carey. Anthea West and Leeann Hamilton, whose books can be seen in the list above, are also on the billing.
It’s going to be a busy weekend. There’s a lot to look at it, so many books worth reading, and so many artists and other creators whose work cries out to be picked up.
I’ll be in attendance as a vendor this year, but I had the utmost pleasure of getting to review a lot of the upcoming books for this year’s event. For those who don’t know, I’m Paul Carroll – just breaking into comics, hence the plethora of new books. Because Comix Ireland is a one-man show, you won’t find reviews of anything (or by anyone) I’m involved in (with) here, which includes anything by Gareth Luby, Tracy Sayers, or Jason Browne of Buttonpress. There’s objectivity, and then there’s bias, and the line gets a little bit finer the closer you get to a book. As for every other book on the list, you’ll likely see reviews popping up ahead of other events. I personally can’t wait to see what these amazing creators, and the ones who aren’t on this list, have to offer in the years to come.
One of Ireland’s longest running web comics is taking its first three chapters and going into print. Fate, by Anthea West, is launching with a collected volume of its first three chapters (and an exclusive print-only prologue!) at Dublin Comic Con this year. The book comes with cover colours by Triona Farrell, a map by Katie O’Meara, and additional colours by O’Meara and Rebecca Nalty. Following an incredibly successful Kickstarter earlier this year, West is ready to bring her beloved back to the convention floor.
Fate is an all-ages comic that combines West’s great sense of humour with a fun and vibrant adventure story. Following the misfortune’s of the only talking dustbunny – later named by another character as ‘Bunny’ – Fate builds up a large, fantastical world with each twist and turn. In a world populated by humans, fauns, dustbunnies, mermaids and demons – and probably a whole lot more – there’s a lot to be discovered with every turn of the page and addition to the site.
West’s sense of humour and style of illustration are perfect for her intended audience, painting a colourful story world filled with friendly and easy-on-the-eye protagonists, and menacing beasts with their eyes (and stomachs) settled on hunting down Bunny. With her art loaning itself equally well to its adorable protagonist and all the nastiness that aims to devour him, readers are in for a visual delight.
The book is certainly a lot less serious than most of the other titles released by Irish creators, but that doesn’t stop it dealing with themes of friendship, prejudice, and finding courage as an unwilling hero. While it’s still quite early in the tale, there’s a lot to uncover within the story about the world, its people, and the things that bind them together. Definitely one to check out, especially if you’re looking for something child-friendly from the Irish small press creators.
Check out Anthea on Twitter at: @antheawest
Clone is another new comic from Hugo Boylan, one of Ireland’s most prolific small press writers. This time, he’s teamed up with Tara Ferguson on the story, who also took up the role of artist for this mind-mess of a comic. Joined by Rebecca Reynolds on colours and Kerrie Smith on letters, this is one of those books that makes you question everything from dinner to your reflection (and, in some cases – like mine – your twin brother.)
I was warned that this would be a weird book. I did not expect this sort of weirdness. It’s the sort of lingering weirdness that akin to sand on a beach, getting everywhere, even long after you think you’ve cleaned it all up. But it’s also akin to the lasting sensation of a good drink. It’s maybe not good for you, but you want it to last a little bit longer.
When dissecting a comic, I don’t normally start with the letters, but as Smith’s intelligent design in the book comes early in the story, I’ll start there. A pair of stories unfolding simultaneously in the book’s opening pages requires either (a) the audience to figure out which is more important or (b) smart lettering. Smith helped with the latter, adding opaque speech bubbles to the messy subplot of the first act. (I mean messy in a “get it off me” sort of way; on a narrative level, it worked incredibly well.)
The story deals with a lot with identity, responsibility, regret, and insanity. There’s not a lot to say that won’t spoil the book that’ll spoil your appetite, so let’s say this: I really enjoyed the story – which isn’t for everyone, but which is worth trying – and while I won’t say it had a nice ending (nice in the “you look nice” sort of way), it was ended well. Nothing in the story is “nice”, which is perfectly fine for a book that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.
Ferguson’s art style is simple, but suitable. With a relatively complex story to tell in a few short pages, there’s no room for playing around with mind-numbing artwork – though I can see something more complicated being suitable for her storytelling in the future, if this book is anything to judge her taste and style by. I should note, simple isn’t a bad thing. Simple makes the story tell itself, and simple worked. The visual elements of the book were, when they weren’t supposed to be otherwise, easy on the eye. There’s a lot to fit into the book – a lot that’s supposed to look the same, if the title didn’t give that away already – and she didn’t let herself down.
Adding the Reynolds’ vibrant colours, we’re given a slightly chilling dichotomy of easy-on-the-eye images against a story that might make you want to rip your own eyes out – just to be safe that what you’re not seeing isn’t there.
Again, this isn’t a book for everyone, but fans of sci-fi horror would probably find something they like in it. It’s worth trying, and it’s worth telling Hugo and Tara how insane they probably have to have been to write this book. The comic launches at Dublin Comic Con on August 12th.
Check out the creators on Twitter:
Hugo Boylan: @hugoboylan
Tara Ferguson: @TaraaFerguson
Rebecca Reynolds: @brobexx
Kerrie Smith: pocketkerrie
Review: The Broker
Launching at Dublin Comic Con, The Broker is the first book from podcaster Wayne Talbot. The book has an interesting publication history (and it’s not even out yet!), originally intended to be released across three anthologies by Lightning Strike, and changing creative teams when it stood out by itself. The original creative team consisted on Wayne Talbot as writer and Miriam Abuin on lettering, both of whom remained throughout the entire project. For the book’s first act, pages 1-10, Ruairi Coleman served as artist, with Timothy Brown on colours. For the remainder of the book, Brian Corcoran assumed the role of artist, with Talbot picking up colours. Ciaran Marcantonio resides over the book as editor as it reaches convention tables for the first time.
The plot of the book seems less tedious after putting the book’s history into words; conceptually, it’s simple, and thematically appropriate for the current political climate. Talbot deals with corruption, brutality and conspiracy throughout three acts, pacing the tale incredibly well across each part. The protagonists are believable in almost every aspect – we’ll let the team away with the superb reflexes of their heroes due in part to the fact that comics allow a certain distinction from reality. Nothing is held back between the twists and turns of a plot centring around Brokers with their own visions of how the world should run, and wicked and scrupulous means of achieving their goals, playing with lives as chess pieces.
Readers can be understandably concerned when they hear about the change in artist between two parts of the story, but fear not: Coleman and Corcoran’s styles compliment each other well. Where Coleman dealt with some of the more explosive scenes of the book, relying on dynamic movements between panels, Corcoran deals with the forensics in greater capacity, picking apart the plot with a fine pen. It helps that each artist deals with a different primary protagonist, with Corcoran and Talbot creating a new tonal quality to the book as it enters its second act. Talbot and Brown’s colours blend well together, and while I would personally question one particularly vibrant background colour choice, Talbot succeeded in completing the colouring of the book as well as any seasoned creator could hope.
Between them, Talbot and Brown created a theme of colours to track throughout the book, working with Abuin’s lettering to tie the whole piece together neatly. Reds carry violence, purples hint at the presence of the antagonists, and oranges case a light on Catelyn’s past.
The risks involved in changing teams are many, but a book like The Broker was perfectly designed to make use of it in the best way. I would question it if the division in acts wasn’t apparent in the writing, too, and any reader should worry when they see such a drastic change in a book’s lineup; thankfully, The Broker blends its second team’s styles with its original creators.
A couple of side notes before I finish: I love that there’s a soundtrack to listen to while reading the book (interior back page, for those of you yet to read the book), and; Catelyn is perhaps my favourite single character from an Irish small press book. As well as being incredibly Bad Ass, she has a few choice panels that really stand out for me towards the end of the second act. When you’ve read the book, then you can ask about it if you don’t immediately spot what makes her so relatable.
I look forward to something new from Talbot, whichever creative team he works with. And, while this is no criticism of The Broker, I’m thankful that the next project he’s announced is less contemporary in nature, so that we might see more of how he creates, and less of the current politics that fills newsfeeds daily.
Follow the creators on Twitter:
Wayne Talbot: @waynetalbot
Miriam Abuin: @miriamabuin
Ruairi Coleman: @ruairicoleman
Timothy Brown: @artoftimbrown
Brian Corcoran: @_brian_corcoran
Ciaran Marcantonio: @ciaronious
Review: Will Sinister
One part Western, one part ‘whatever-we-can-call-Boylan’s-creative-madness’, Will Sinister is one of a few new books launching at this year’s Dublin Comic Con; we were lucky enough to be sent an advanced review copy. Hugo Boylan (Malevolence, High Fantasy, Black White and Grey, Superhero Helpdesk… you get the picture yet?) teams up with artist John Quigley (Malevolence) and letterer Kerrie Smith (Girls Like You, Superhero Helpdesk) to bring us a new tale of death, violence, and broken expectations. With Dearbhla Kelly on cover colours, it makes for a pretty package with a rustic interior.
There’s an expectation from the book’s beginning for there to be some traditional gun-slinging and contextually appropriate racism (maybe not slurs, exactly…but hate), and in many ways we’re not disappointed. There’s a clear divide between the “cowboys” and natives, and an unravelling tale behind this particular snippet of history.
Typical of Boylan, there’s a twist in the feel of the book; also typical of him is the unpredictability of when something like this will happen. The particular splicing of spirituality with the Western tale is reminiscent of Jonah Hex and Preacher, and while the later arc of the book raises a few questions about the history of the comic’s scruffy protagonist that aren’t quite addressed, the blending of the natural and the supernatural works incredibly well in Will Sinister, while preserving the character’s dodgy integrity.
Quigley’s art gives the story a rustic, wild feel, perfect for the brutality of the dark reality of the era. Expertly capturing distress, agony and disgust, and he creates a visually disturbing narrative, with a few choice character designs standing out. As a bonus, the book contains the concept art for Sinister and his most intimate, primal companion. Perhaps its a bias for Irish small press, but it stands out as one of my favourite representations of the character.
Adding to the tale are Smith’s experienced lettering hands. There’s a sense of power given to certain characters, and the barriers between the natural and the supernatural are broken down further still with her inclusion in the book.
If I had to criticise the book, my one judgement would be that I felt like we’re left with a loose end or two by its final page, and no promise within its pages of a follow-up. Maybe it’s a personal thing, and a familiarity with continuing narratives across multiple books, but when a book ends the way Will Sinister does, I’d like to think there might be something to come later, and an opportunity for unanswered questions to be resolved. Don’t let it put you off picking up Will Sinister at Dublin Comic Con; think of this as an excuse to keep an extra close eye on future releases from this team of creators.
(Update: the story will continue. Confirmed by Hugo Boylan shortly after this review went live.)
Follow the creators on Twitter:
Hugo Boylan: @hugoboylan
John Quigley: @johnquigley209
Dearbhla Kelly: @dearbhlala
Kerrie Smith: @pocketkerrie
Review: Red Sands
‘Mad Max’ meets vampires in Red Sands issue 1 from Lightning Strike Comics. I received a digital copy of the comic from the book’s writer for review. Written by Ciaran Marcantonio, illustrated by Cormac Hughes, coloured by Triona Farrell, and lettered by Bob Kelly, the book collects two parts of a tale originally published in Lightning Strike 6 & 8.
While the divide in the story as a result of how it was originally published it slightly jarring (right up until the next page turn, that is), each part of the story presents the reader with different sets of information, and charges the tale with tension amidst the dystopian history lesson. Years of working in comics – and a collection that would leave casual buyers in awe – have prepared Marcantonio for the creation of this horrid world, haunted by a burning sun, long nights, and bloodthirsty vampires. There’s a nice blend of tension-building with the narrative guidance of the book’s protagonist, providing us with all the information we need to understand what’s happening in the moment, without providing all the answers.
Hughes’s artwork loads itself well to the style of the story. Snippets of gear changes and exploding blood bags capture quick movements, while lines of tension are drawn between panels as characters square off against each other, poised for strong words. With the addition of Farrell’s colours, the story is brought to a dark and bloody life. Cool blues and stark yellows dominate the pages of the book, with deep reds drawing bloodied warning lines throughout the book.
There’s a lot to like about this book. Dealing with issues of parentage, survival and the common good, this vampire dystopia is much more than meets the eye. The book is reminiscent of classic genre flicks from the 80s and 90s, from Mad Max 2 to From Dusk Till Dawn, with a climate change apocalypse thrown in for good measure.
While the exact cause of the events that led to Red Sands is still uncertain, one thing is clear: dying is almost inevitable. The sun will burn you up, human or vampire. The vampires will drain you as quickly as you drain your fuel tank. And, if Red Sands Testament (Writer: Marcantonio, Artist: Robert Carey, Colourist: Ruth Redmond, Letterer: Miriam Abuin) is anything to go by (a bonus story at the back of the book!), the battle is being fought on all fronts.
Red Sands is definitely one to check out for horror and sci-fi fans, and to give readers a good idea of the sort of stories Marcantonio can tell ahead of his upcoming graphic novel Neon Skies.
Check out the creators on Twitter:
Ciaran Marcantonio: @ciaronious
Cormac Hughes: @fhiacha
Triona Farrell: @treestumped
Robert Carey: @robcareycomics
Ruth Redmond: @ruth_redmond
Miriam Abuin: @miriamabuin
Photos from DECAF, April 23 2017
On April 23rd, we saw the first Dublin Eight Comic Arts Festival: DECAF. Organised by Dublin Comic Arts with panels by The Comics Lab, the event saw to showcase some of the amazing comic art in Dublin with a market, panels, and a few familiar elements from The Comics Lab that were a welcome sight for those who arrived with kids. More on that later.
Entering the Fumbally Stables, attendees were greeted by Matthew Melis and Debbie Jenkinson, two of the organisers for the day. Matthew put together the market side of things, while Debbie arranged the panels. She was also responsible for the massive selection of comics for sale on the way in, from her, Sarah Bowie, Matthew, Paddy Lynch, Philip Barrett and more.
Julie Nick and Katie Fleming sat the first table as attendees entered the main market room (and we the first to be accosted for a photo!) Julie brands herself as a cartoonist, with a sketchbook and Pulp Stories Vol. 1 to show off (along with an amazing new print!). Katie, on the other hand, is a full-on comic creator, as artist for Helion and creator of 100 Times and 100 More Times (NB: gay werewolves) under her belt (along with a ton of prints!)
Nikki Foster and Hugh Madden were next in line. Nikki had a range of zines of varying sizes with her, which helped to showcase the variety of styles available in the Irish comics scene. Hugh had a range of strange tales featuring anthropomorphised animals – obviously I had to get my hands on them.
Pushing the limits of awesome strangeness were All Things Thom and Miriam Rodriguez. Thom had possibly the widest range of things with her, from t-shirts to stickers, prints and zines – including The Thom Guide to: What To Say When You Don’t Know What to Say, which she says she’s used at parties. Miriam had a range of Spanish-language comics with her, including one that had she censored on a second printing – roughly translating as ‘things that are a pain in the ass’, and featuring said pained-ass on the cover.
Seán Hogan and Dylan Drennan extended the diversity of Irish comics available on the day at the next table down. Seán brought Project Crossroads and Rabbit and Paul with him, respectively a sci-fi-fantasy-horror anthology and all-ages comics about a boy from Bally’O’Jhaysus who buys an anthropomorphised rabbit. (Try saying that with your mouth full!) Dylan, AKA Skabag, had Gayboy with him, a fun collection of artwork from someone who’s only just entering the scene with a book.
Next in line were Clare Foley and Karen Harte. Clare is a traditional artist, creating her books in watercolours, and accidentally reminding people that she can draw hands really well. (We joked about this on the day. It was probably funnier then.) Karen is one of the editors and organisers of the MINE Anthology, a collection of artwork and comics about and in aid of the Repeal the 8th/Abortion Rights Campaign.
At the end of the row were Sarah Bowie and Luke Healy, joined here by Charlot Kristensen who designed the poster for the event. Sarah is one of the organisers of The Comics Lab, and had with a wide range of comics and zines, including one about how she’s not related to David Bowie. Luke had a huge collection of comics of varying prices and sizes, showing off a multitude of stories and skills.
As well as having a market on the day, DECAF also provided an opportunity for people to tune in to two panels; Karen Harte led one, about activism and comics – following the successful publication of MINE, joined by three of the contributors to the book. She was followed by Luke Healy, Clare Foley, Katie Fleming and Olly Blake (pictured above) as they spoke about their inspirations in comics, and what they’re working on now.
As well as panels, the Comic Labs also brought along drawing exercises for adults and kids alike, which took the burden of entertainment off some parents for a few minutes.
Attendees were also encouraged to partake in the Comic Swap, where books could be traded or bought from the table, based on what people brought with them.
The event was also catered by Kev’s Kitchen, providing hot, cold and baked foods, along with a range of drinks.
All in all, it made for a fun day, and only the first for Dublin Comic Arts. They’ll be returning on July 23rd, this time at the Dublin Food Co-op in Newmarket Square. If it’s anything like the weekend’s event, it’ll be one to spend a day at.